Healing addiction: harm reduction (focus on smoking)

Tobacco, addiction and healing

Note: this was first published on Everything Matters: Beyond Meds, a couple of years ago. Since then people have told me they’ve taken the method I discuss and used it successfully in their own relationships with tobacco. One of these women told me I should publish it once a year because she thinks others would find it helpful too. I love that anyone finds anything I write helpful and this particular post, I think, really helps with understanding harm-reduction and kindness to oneself when making changes.


I never quit smoking and I rarely smoke. What I did was start mindfully smoking. I started to feel every bit of the smoking process — both the deliciousness and the toxicity of the smoke as it entered my mouth,  into my lungs tingle in all my cells. I smoked every cigarette like it was my last one until I no longer smoked. I didn’t smoke for 11 years and then I experienced tobacco in a ceremony. Tobacco came to me in spirit and filled my heart. After that I have smoked tiny bits ceremonially off of cigarettes. I am no longer addicted. So I didn’t quit smoking — I healed my relationship with Mother tobacco. She is a sacred plant. 

I find that through harm-reduction, rather than via hard-core abstinence I’ve been able to bring healing to all my addictions. My  path, in general, could be considered one of harm-reduction. When I worked in social services I worked for organizations that used harm-reduction models which influenced me and my healing journey. It’s a highly respectful way of being with oneself as we heal from the attachments (sometimes addictions) of the modern world.

Tobacco is a beautiful plant. When I first moved to Appalachia 17 years ago their were hundreds  of tobacco fields on small farms and rolling hills. Really beautiful. They made me feel happy. Small tobacco farms you could watch the whole harvest year happening complete with barns with hanging plants.

All so lovely and all gone now with the shifting trends around cigarette use. I get that tobacco is flagrantly misused (and exploited by capitalists), but the loss of those beautiful fields and a few hundred years of tradition still felt like a loss to this yankee girl who moved to the south …

Tabacco used with mindful presence can be medicine…or just plain relaxing. It’s an herb.

more posts on mindfulness

more posts on addiction

tobacco field and barn...
tobacco field and barn…
tobacco barn with drying tobacco


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  1. Barbara S says:

    very interesting indeed; I have glanced over some of your old posts on the subject and would like to learn more about the harm reduction model – I am a self-diagnosed sugar/refined carb addict with some 25% excess weight to show for it. Any suggestions? Thank you and best wishes,


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